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Eighteenth Century Philosophers: A Comparison

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Eighteenth Century Philosophers: A Comparison

The "Enlightenment" or the "Age of Realization" was an age of great advancement and reform for all of Europe and beyond. Great advancements were being made in the fields of science, philosophy, mathematics, and logic. Most people attribute these achievements to the social critics of that time, also known as the philosophes. These philosophes were controversial thinkers and pioneered the intellectual movements of the 1700's. They stood up for what they believed in, although they were constantly criticized and censured by many other people. Such philosophers include Descartes, Hobbes, Locke, and Voltaire. Although their beliefs violently contradicted, they were all working to change what they thought was wrong with their present government. They were four men who disagreed about almost everything, and yet they were working towards a common goal. This is how the Age of Enlightenment became a reality.

Rene Descartes was a French philosopher, mathematician, and scientist. He was born in La Haye, France (now called Descartes) in 1595. Unlike some other Enlightenment thinkers, he relied on logic and math in his reasoning. He was educated at the Jesuit College of La Fleche. It is thought that his most important influence was a man named Isaac Beeckman. It was with this man that Descartes discussed math, philosophy, and physics. This man was his friend and trusted colleague. In 1618 Descartes served in the army of Prince Maurice of Nassau. It was Descartes theory that stated, "the discovery of proper method is the key to furthering scientific advancement." Descartes was responsible for a number of very influential works including Rules for the Direction of Mind, Le Monde (The World), Discourse on Method, Meditationes de Prima Philosophia (Meditations on the First Philosophy), The Principles of Philosophy, and Les Passions de l'ame (Passions of the Soul.) He coined the phrase, "Cogito Ergo Sum," in English meaning, "I Think Therefore I Am." Although Descartes died in Stockholm in1650, his words have lived on for many centuries and will survive through many more.

Thomas Hobbes was born in London, England in 1588. He was educated at Oxford University in England where he studied the classics. In 1651, Hobbes wrote his most famous book, Leviathan. In this book he argued that most people were born evil and could not be trusted to govern themselves. He thought that a ruler needed to have complete control over his people to govern efficiently.
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